$400.8 million worth of Navajo Reservation chapter projects

(L-) Navajo Council Delegate George Apachito stands by Delegate Edmund Yazzie during a recess in the Council's Winter session on Jan. 28, 2014 . In the background is Chief of Staff Jarvis Williams, Staff Assistant Darrell Tso Sr., Speaker Johnny Naize and Staff Assistant Ansley Curley. Photo by Marley Shebala

(L-) Navajo Council Delegate George Apachito stands by Delegate Edmund Yazzie during a recess in the Council’s Winter session on Jan. 28, 2014 . In the background is Chief of Staff Jarvis Williams, Staff Assistant Darrell Tso Sr., Speaker Johnny Naize and Staff Assistant Ansley Curley. Photo by Marley Shebala

Speaker Johnny Naize informed Council Delegates in a Feb. 11 memo that he’s approved a Special Session on Feb. 21 to address LEGISLATION 0118-13: Recommending and Approving the Chapter’s Infrastructure Improvement Priority Projects for fiscal years 2013 to 2018, which the Council requested during their Winter Session last month.

“The directive was to allow the Delegates to gather the chapter resolutions/documents that needed to be added to the chapter’s Infrastructure Improvement Priority Projects for FY 2013 through 2018 before the Navajo Nation Council considers the legislation at a Special Session to be held within 30 days following the Winter Session,” Naize stated in his memo to the Council. “Additionally the CIP (Capital Improvement Projects) office will be asked to update the projects listing.”

Naize noted that the deadline for Delegates to submit their resolutions and documents to the CIP office is Feb. 18.

For your information, Legislation 0118-13 started the legislative process in April 2013 and finally got to the Council last month. But then the Council put it on hold so Delegates could add more infrastructure projects for their chapters.

I’m not surprised. And before I forget, the total cost for the CIPs for chapters is more than $400.8 million.

In my more than 28 years of doing news coverage of the Council, I’ve seen multiple CIP lists make it to the Council, where some Delegates ultimately ask why their chapters’ projects are not on the list or they ask what happened to their chapters’ projects.

And eventfully some Delegates ask why some Delegates appear to have more projects for their chapters or why some Delegates have more funding for their chapters’ projects.

The Delegates also all eventually begin justifying why their chapters’ projects are more important that other chapters’ projects.

After several hours of heated debate, hidden and not so hidden insults, and numerous points of order, the Council votes down the proposed CIP list.

When Delegate Jonathan Hale, who is the sponsor of Legislation 0118-13, dropped it into the legislative process, it was 1:45 p.m. on April 15, 2013. After five days, it was ready for committee review and action and the first committee it went before was the Resources & Development Committee. After the RDC, it went to the Budget & Finance Committee, Naabik’iyati Committee and finally to the Council on Jan. 30, where it came to a screeching halt.

But according to Legislation 0118-13, Navajo law mandates a process for how chapter projects get on the CIP list, how those projects are prioritized, and how the projects are funded.

And the law is very clear about who develops the CIP list. It’s the CIP office and not the Council or any of its committees. Yes!

Anyway, Navajo law also mandates that the CIP list and funding are to be developed with a “specific month-to-month chronological sequence of activities beginning with gathering information about chapter needs, preparing a list of existing tribally owned facilities in need of repair or replacement, reporting on the status of previously approved capital projects.”

And then the CIP office, Office of Management and Budget and the Controller “perform a financial analysis to determine the level of expenditures and the source of the funding the nation can safely afford.”

The CIP list then goes to OMB, where it would be incorporated in the annual tribal government operating budget for Council approval.

But that portion of the CIP process won’t be done since the Council already approved the annual operating budget in August 2013. And this portion of tribal law has been repeatedly waived by the Council because there’s been no approved CIP list for several years.

I explained the reasons for no approved CIP list several paragraphs ago.

And according to a Sept. 14, 2012, memo from OMB director Dominic Beyal, the Navajo Nation Appropriations Act “guides” the CIP process starts ten months before the beginning of the budget year and six months before the CIP list is presented to the RDC. The budget year starts on Sept. 1.

“This means Dec. 1, 2011, and April 1, 2012, respectively, for FY 2013,” Beyal stated. “Thus at this point the proposed (CIP) plan is late. The (CIP) plan could be considered for FY 2014.”

Well folks, FY 2014 started Sept. 1, 2013. Maybe the plan is to get Legislation 0118-13 aka the CIP plan for FY 2013 to FY 2018 ready for FY 2015…

Beyal also had numerous questions about the CIP list, including how were the projects prioritized.

On March 11, 2013, Beyal updated his concerns with his CIP “financial analysis”, which reported a $25 million balance in the Reserves; a $11.1 million balance in Personnel Savings Fund; $7 million in 2013 budget; $1 billion in Permanent Trust Fund, and $35 million in PTF interest.

He noted that if the Council approved a 5-Year Plan for the PTF Interest that about $17 million of the $35 million could be used for the CIP plan.

Beyal also reminded the Council that they approved $4 million to the chapters for discretionary capital projects and $12.5 million for chapter non-administration costs.

He then lists numerous concerns and questions that he has with the CIP plan, including the plan “not written in a way that is easy to read and understand.”

And so Beyal says he recommends that the “Executive Branch work to prepare a well-written and organized plan and resulting funding budget. This would be the appropriate way to develop a plan and budget that can be eventually approved.”

The law also lays out which committee sees the CIP list first. And that’s the RDC, which is mandated to review the CIP list based on “project cost, feasibility, project value and benefit to the community as a whole.”

The B&F, under Navajo law, reviews the CIP list to make sure that there is funding for the projects.

According to Legislation 0118-13, the $400.8 million would fund 23 tribal government buildings and facilities; 15 chapter houses and chapter level facilities; 2 recreational areas and facilities (skate park, scenic site, picnic location, exercise area); 9 judicial facilities (Supreme Court facility, district court facilities); 13 senior citizen centers and facilities; 10 parking lots; 3 water and waste water systems, and 4 major equipment purchases  (upgrade heavy equipment, vet mobile, solid waste transfer station)

Navajo Nation Council SPECIAL session proposed AGENDA.


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